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Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, WiiU
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: Feb. 12, 2021


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Switch Review - 'Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Feb. 17, 2021 @ 12:00 a.m. PST

Work together with your friends or compete for the crown in Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury, featuring co-op gameplay in a variety of creative levels.

Buy Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury

Since the Nintendo 64, Mario has been divided into two realms: 2D games and 3D games. The 2D games include everything from Super Mario Bros. to New Super Mario Bros., while the 3D games tend to revolve around collecting items and exploring zones. Super Mario 3D Land for the 3DS was an attempt at bridging the gap between the two, but the real success story was the Wii U's Super Mario 3D World, which took parts of both to make something new and excellent. Unfortunately, it was a Wii U game and was largely overlooked. Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury is a chance to bring one of the best Mario games to a wider audience, and it adds a surprisingly fun bonus mode to boot.

What makes Mario 3D World stand out is how insanely creative it is. The levels start out simple, but before long, there are all kinds of absurd and awesome concepts. It's difficult to not spoil the clever segments, but 3D World basically goes all-out in being distinctive, creative and cool. You're always doing something interesting, such as surfing on the Loch Ness Monster, carrying a piranha plant, exploring a level focused on shadows and silhouettes, and playing a level that is Super Mario Kart right down the music.

While Mario 3D World is a lot more 2D Mario than 3D Mario, it does feature some exploration. There are green stars hidden in stages, and you usually need to complete a challenge or find a secret area to nab those stars. Collecting them is necessary to progress in the game, so you can rush through stages, but it's often worthwhile to stop and see what you can find. The puzzles to reach the stars are often the most enjoyable parts of the game, so they're well worth seeking out. It also gives the stages some genuine replay value as you seek out every secret in the game.

Mario 3D World wholeheartedly embraces the old-school style of Mario power-ups, so there are no health bars. Get hit, and you shrink. Collect a power-up, and you'll gain a new ability until you take damage. The traditional mushroom and fire flower are present, as is the Tanuki Suit from Mario 3. Joining it are a number of new power-ups, the most significant of which is the Lucky Cat power-up, which turns Mario into his cat form, so he can climb walls, perform dives, and claw at enemies. It's incredibly useful and is the go-to suit for much of the game. Of course, if you rely too much on its powers, you'll be in trouble if you take an unlucky hit.

Mario 3D World's best feature was four-player multiplayer. While the game isn't built entirely around it, it's clear that the worlds are designed with it in mind. Players can take control of Mario, Luigi, Peach and Toad, each with their own Super Mario Bros. 2 skillset. Finishing the game's harder missions allows you to unlock Rosalina from Super Mario Galaxy, who trades speed for jumping height. Together, they can go through stages in a mixed cooperative/competitive game. Your goal is to finish the stage by working together, but there is a very shiny crown that players can compete for. This turns most stages into hilarious mixes of working together and trying to kill the jerk with the crown. New to 3D World is the addition of online multiplayer, which is a huge boon. Getting friends together to play 3D World was tough enough, even without a pandemic.

If Mario 3D World was an attempt to make the 3D games feel more like the 2D games, Bowser's Fury is the opposite. Like the main game, it is a mishmash of the 2D and 3D Mario styles but with more of a lean toward the 3D. In particular, Bowser's Fury is Super Mario Sunshine by way of an open-world game. Rather than levels of multiple zones, Mario is given a huge map to explore but must collect Cat Shines to open up more of the map. In many ways, Bowser's Fury feels like a sequel to Mario Sunshine but without the FLUDD water pack. It takes place in a large tropical environment, Bowser Jr. is along for the ride, and your goal is to find ways to get rid of goopy messes by collecting Shines. Whereas Sunshine embraced its water-jetpack gameplay, Bowser's Fury is traditional Mario through and through.

The core gameplay of 3D World is retained, but the environments are significantly more open to encourage exploration. As long as an area is unlocked, you can wander in and out of it. In 3D Mario tradition, your goal is to find hidden shiny things. Some require you to complete a platforming challenge, others require you to discover hidden secrets, others need you to collect coins, and so on. This is a great example of how Mario's core gameplay can be translated into less rigid gameplay without losing much.

The titular Bowser's Fury involves the big man himself. For reasons unknown, he has become a hellish demonic version of himself, and fury literally ravages the land around him as he throws spikes and shoots Godzilla-like fire blasts. As long as Bowser is raging, the environment is significantly more dangerous, with constant rains of fire and the risk of getting blasted. On the other hand, his thrown spikes open potential platforming options that aren't normally available, and his fire blast can break blocks that are normally invulnerable.

Regardless of how useful his fury can be, you need to find a way to quell it. Collecting a Shine temporarily sends Bowser back into his shell and returns the weather to a charming tropical atmosphere. To stop him, you need to collect enough Shines to activate a Giga Bell. Doing so while Bowser is up and about lets Mario transform into a new form: a giant golden cat suited version of himself with very spikey hair. While in this form, Mario can engage in a full-out kaiju boss battle with Bowser. Defeat him, and you'll unlock the new set of areas to explore until you can finally put him down for good.

Bowser's Fury introduces a few new gameplay mechanics. You can keep a huge collection of power-ups that can be swapped at any time, so as long as you don't take a huge number of hits, you'll always have tanuki suits and cat bells at your beck and call. Bowser Jr. is also along for the ride. By default, he's an AI ally who occasionally helps in combat, and you can adjust the frequency. He also can be used to hit certain switches. While Bowser's Fury lacks the full-on multiplayer of 3D World, a second player can take control of Bowser Jr., but his skillset is more reminiscent of Cappy in Odyssey rather than a full-on second character.

Bowser's Fury isn't super long. You'll get a few hours of gameplay out of it, but it's more like a supersized Odyssey world than its own stand-alone game. It is darn fun, though. It lacks some of the polish of either 3D World or any of the 3D titles, but it's a really great platformer experience. It's not worth buying on its own, but it adds a nice amount of extra content to 3D World, which features a ton of gameplay in the main game. Even if you dislike Bowser's Fury, the game is worth playing for the original levels alone.

Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury is one of the best Mario games to date. Brimming with creativity and style, it captures so much of what makes Mario fun without feeling as familiar as New Super Mario Bros. or Odyssey. It's a little less polished than Odyssey but makes up for that with a constant barrage of new and enjoyable levels. Bowser's Fury is a significantly better add-on than Pikmin 3's bonus levels, and while it can't carry the game on its own, it's a strong addition to the package. If you're a fan of Mario, then 3D World is the game for you. Be prepared for the multiplayer to be as good at killing friendships as Mario Party.

Score: 9.0/10

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